Virginia and DC, July 2005

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Great Britain
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Travelogue: Virginia and DC
July 2005

By Roger W. Reini

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Saturday July 2

In previous years, I would not have taken a major vacation at this time of year.  However, this year, there was a new one-week shutdown at work, and with few exceptions, everyone had to take 4 days of vacation to go along with the July 4th holiday.  And with my sister and her family being back in this country for a month’s worth of vacation in Virginia, I knew what I would do and where I would go.

Earlier in the day, I’d heard from my sister Sharon.  They were stuck in a traffic jam on I-95 on the way to Virginia Beach.  The cause was an accident, one serious enough that helicopters were brought in for the injured.  I was still at home, for my trip would not begin until that night.  I was going to take the train from Dearborn to Washington, then rent a car for the drive to Virginia Beach.  Originally, I would have left Friday evening, but when I went to buy the train ticket, that train was sold out.  So I got tickets for the next night, which was today, and a return ticket for one week from today.

I left the house around 7:15 for an 8:45 PM departure.  I had time to stop for supper at McDonald’s, where I had one of their salads.  Then it was off to the credit union’s offices to get some cash for the trip, and then it was over to the train station to wait for the bus that would take me to Toledo to catch the train to DC.  When I got to the station around 8:15 PM, the parking lot was filled.  I couldn’t find a spot anywhere!  I got concerned about where to park for the week.  Fortunately, many of the spots were being occupied by people who were picking up travelers coming in on the train from Chicago, so I was able to find a spot close to the station.

The bus arrived around 8:30, and the Toledo-bound travelers boarded.  By 8:45, we had set off for our next destination, the Detroit Amtrak station.  It was in the New Center area, and several more people boarded.  It was very busy around there; that was due to the Comerica TasteFest taking place along West Grand Boulevard.  That didn’t hinder the bus from making it over to the Lodge Freeway, from which we headed on down to Toledo.  While traveling down the Lodge, I noticed some Detroit streets had been named for Motown groups – Four Tops Street, Contours Street, and Temptations Street were the ones that I noticed.  There was construction south of Monroe, but we made it to Toledo in plenty of time.  The traffic leaving the Mud Hens’ game didn’t cause us any problems.

Although the bus made it to Toledo on time, the train from Chicago did not.  It was a half-hour late.  To pass the time, I had a bottle of Dr Pepper and a Nutri-Grain bar and watched CNN on the TV monitors; it was airing a program on global warming.  When the train arrived, we were directed to the appropriate cars; in my case, it was one of the coaches.  With the travel time being around 13 hours, I figured that I didn’t need to get a sleeping car berth this time out.  That would save me some significant money.

My seat was on a bulkhead row, meaning nobody would be sitting in front of me.  I had plenty of legroom.  With the late hour, I would be going right to sleep, or at least attempting to.


Sunday July 3

On past train trips, I had never gotten a good night’s sleep, and that held true today.  I did get some sleep, but it wasn’t a good sleep.  I had to get up once or twice to use the restroom; this required me to step over my seatmate so that I wouldn’t disturb her.  I managed.  I also had a bottle of water with me, but I had no place to store it.  I ended up tucking it between my body and the seat.  I also rested my arm on the window sill, which helped to cool me somewhat.

Around 7, I headed for the dining car to have breakfast.  Since I was riding in coach, I would have to pay for the meals, unlike when I was riding in the sleeping cars.  My dining partners this morning were a mother and son from Ashland, Ohio who were traveling to Williamsburg to meet her sister.  They would change trains in DC, while I would be renting a car to drive to Virginia Beach.  I decided to have the French toast and turkey sausage links.  Back at my seat, I would read extensively from the book “Stories Told By ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”, and I would look out occasionally at the scenery.  In some ways, the terrain reminded me of Colorado with the hilly terrain and rock outcroppings, although the foliage was much more lush here in the East.

We had left Toledo late, and we got later and later throughout the trip.  By the time we arrived at Union Station in Washington, we were nearly two hours late.  When I got inside the station, my first task was to find the Alamo car rental counter and arrange to pick up my car.  After visting the restroom, I visited Sbarro for lunch.  It wasn’t easy navigating inside the restaurant with two heavy bags, but I managed.  I called my sister to let her know I was in town.  When I’d finished eating, I went up to the rental car pickup level and found my car, a white Chrysler Sebring with New Jersey license plates.  I spent some time looking over the car and setting up the XM radio before pulling out.  The entrance ramp for I-395 was not far away from the station, but I missed getting into the proper lane for it and had to drive around a big block to try again.

The drive down I-395 and I-95 was uneventful.  I listened to the Astros play the Reds, courtesy of XM’s baseball coverage.  The sound quality was not as good as I was used to, for I had to resort to the FM modulator instead of using a cassette adapter or line-in jack.  But it got the job done.  At Richmond, I took I-295 to I-64, which I took down to Norfolk, and then I took I-264 to Virginia Beach.  This was my first visit to the Hampton Roads area, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew that my father had lived in Newport News while he worked at NASA’s Langley center, and I knew there was a heavy Navy presence in Norfolk, and I knew that Ford had an assembly plant there, but that was all.

I would be staying at the new Hilton on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach.  Being a member of Hilton’s HHonors frequent stayer program, I wanted to accumulate as many points as I could with them.  The Hilton was more expensive then I might otherwise prefer, but I did want to stay in the resort area, so I decided to live it up a bit.  I parked at the main entrance while I checked in, then parked my car at the garage across the street.  I made sure to park in the proper space and hang the card on the mirror saying I was a guest.  My room was room 817 on the 8th floor.  It faced south, giving me a view of the Atlantic Avenue resort area as well as the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach was very wide, much wider than Galveston’s beaches.

I knew that Sharon and family were staying in the Sandbridge area, which was several miles away from the resort area.  But after today’s travels, I was too tired to drive to see them, so we agreed that we would meet tomorrow.  I walked up and down Atlantic Avenue looking for a place to have supper.  The strip was filled with hotels and motels, most of which were on the east, or ocean, side of the street.  There were plenty of shops that sold swimsuits, boogie boards, and souvenirs.  There was at least one Dairy Queen, which was doing a brisk business.  There were several restaurants, but most of them involved some form of seafood buffet, which I didn’t really want; I wasn’t hungry enough for that.  I ended up having room service back at the hotel; the Angus burger was pretty good.  However, the prices were such that I would not make a habit of ordering room service.  Not that I’d want to, anyway.


Monday July 4

After my travels on the weekend, I was in need of a shower.  The shower in my hotel room was just that: a shower, with no bathtub.  There was no permanent barrier between it and the rest of the bathroom; only the shower curtain and the sloped floor served as barriers.  It was a two-head design, which allowed for upper and lower body coverage, and it even had a handheld attachment.

I decided to go down the strip a short distance to the Colonial Inn and Angelo’s (a very short distance; the inn and restaurant were next door to the Hilton), where I tried their breakfast buffet.  It was OK, but I had had better at other establishments.  Then I drove down to see my sister.  Sandbridge was some 15 miles and 30-40 minutes away from the resort area, but the roads to get there were good – or some of them were.  I took Pacific Avenue, which became General Booth Boulevard, home to the Virginia Aquarium, a go-kart and waterpark, and several restaurants.  Then I turned left onto Princess Anne Boulevard, stopping at the 7-11 on the corner for a Slurpee that wouldn’t fit in the car’s cupholder.  Sandbridge Road branched off of Princess Anne – a two-lane, winding road that went through some scenic areas before finally reaching the beach.  The municipal parking lot was already full.  I turned down Sandpiper and drove for several blocks until I reached their cabin.

The cabin was on stilts, a sensible design given its location two streets over from the beach.  The walls and ceiling were covered with dark wood paneling that reminded me of the wood paneling in the house I grew up in.  There were four bedrooms, two of them with bunk beds.  The kitchen was separated from the living room by a long bar that contained the sink and several drawers.  Everyone was happy to see me; we hadn’t seen each other since November (everyone except my brother-in-law) or last May.  Once I brought out my supply of gossip magazines and American Idol books/magazines, my nieces were even happier to see me.

Around noon, we went to the beach.  We drove over in the rental SUV, for Randy was to go to the nearby Wal-Mart and find some beach umbrellas.  I carried the boogie board and the folding chairs, and everyone else carried something as we walked the access path to the beach.  The path was full of sand, making walking somewhat difficult.  We went up and down a flight of stairs at the dune line, and then we were on the beach.  We found our spot and settled down – that is, until we moved farther up the beach to be closer to their house.  The ocean seemed rather smooth, although there were waves crashing on the shore.  Brandon was running around and building sand castles, and the girls helped him with those.  I did not bring my swimsuit with me that day, so all I could do was wade in the surf.  The water was a bit cool, but I eventually got used to it.  Everyone had some level of sunburn where the sunscreen hadn’t been effective or been applied effectively.  By the end of the day, part of the tops of my feet and the backs of my legs would be burned.

Randy arrived with the umbrellas, and we set them up and enjoyed our stay a bit more.  He and Heather went boogie-boarding, and he and Brandon played Frisbee for a bit.  At one point, I had to return to the house to visit the bathroom.  When I got there with the key, I had trouble remembering which was the right key, so I called Sharon’s cell phone.  But just as her phone began ringing, I found the right key.  It happened to be the one on the ring with the realty’s tag on it (of course).  I took care of business and went back to the beach.  We spent about four hours there.

There would be fireworks that evening in Virginia Beach, meaning the official fireworks display in the resort area.  I figured I would have a great view of them from my hotel room’s balcony.  The residents of and visitors to Sandbridge would also be able to see them, for I could see the tall hotels of the resort area quite clearly from the beach.  I was concerned that I might encounter traffic getting back to the hotel or even be prevented from parking at the garage due to road closures.  The desk clerk at the hotel assured me when I called that I would be able to park at the garage.  Still, I didn’t stay around too long after supper (hot dogs and beans).  I didn’t encounter any traffic until I got to the hotel garage.  And after dark, I had a great view of the fireworks from my 8th-floor balcony.  I was alternating between taking video and still pictures of the fireworks.  My only complaint was that the show was too short; it only lasted 15 minutes.  Detroit’s fireworks ran at least 30 minutes.  Not long after the fireworks ended, I could hear the sound of the Marshall Tucker Band reverberating from the buildings.  They were playing on an outdoor stage in Neptune Park, just north of the hotel.


Tuesday July 5

Before this trip, I had been in every state of the South except for one:  North Carolina.  Now the Norfolk area was not very far from North Carolina, so I saw a great opportunity to visit the state.  There was another great opportunity: visit the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk.  It was only 100 miles or so away by road, so this was definitely something not to be missed.  My uncle Bill had visited Kitty Hawk in December 2003 during the 100th anniversary celebration.  Now I would be there for its 101st-and-a-half anniversary (ha ha).

When I set off on my trip, I stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s off of I-264.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was on a corner that made it nearly impossible to return to the freeway at that location.  It was only nearly impossible, though; I found a way to get back onto the freeway.  I continued down to the intersection with I-64, then took that down to Highway 168, the Chesapeake Expressway.  I left it to look for a gas station, which I eventually found.  After filling up the car’s tank and visiting the restroom to empty my own (so to speak), I got back onto the expressway, which turned out to be a tollway.  It wasn’t very long before I reached the border with North Carolina.  Now I could say that I had been to every state in the South.  An hour or so later, I was crossing the causeway to the Outer Banks.  It reminded me of a smaller version of the Galveston Causeway.  My first stop was the Visitor Center and Rest Area, where I picked up some literature and viewed a memorial to the first 100 years of flight.  It consisted of several brushed aluminum pylons, each with a plaque commemorating several years’ worth of milestones in aviation and aerospace history from 1903 to 2000.  In between the circle of pylons were bricks, most engraved in honor of someone.  There was one brick dedicated to Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and the rest of the Columbia crew killed in 2003.  Several were related to the Coast Guard, including one dedicated to the aircrews that never returned from their missions.

I continued down the highway for around seven or eight miles, stopping at a 7-11 for a bottle of water.  The highway reminded me of Seawall Boulevard past the end of the Seawall with the combination of residences, sea-related businesses, etc.  The Wright Brothers Memorial was in the middle of all this, although the grounds were large enough to provide a suitable sense of isolation from encroaching development.  They were grass-covered and devoid of trees except on the edges.  The grass helped to keep the hill from being blown away, which is what would have happened had it been kept in its original sandy condition.  The main visitor center has a mockup of the Wright Glider that the brothers flew in 1902, as well as a replica of the 1903 Flyer (the original is at the Smithsonian; the replica built for the 100-year anniversary is at the Henry Ford Museum).  On the grounds itself is a boulder at the takeoff point for the first four flights and four concrete markers representing the distance each flight went.  Three were close together, and the fourth was several hundred feet away.  On the other side of the grounds was Kill Devil Hill, with a large memorial tower atop it.  The tower was intended to mark the 25th anniversary of the flights.  From the top of the hill, one could get a good view of the surrounding area.  It was worth the hike to the top, which left me a bit winded.  Then it was back down to visit the exhibits in the newer visitor center buildings.  It was at the gift shop here that I bought a book for nephew Brandon about the Wright Brothers’ dog.  I had suggested that he and his dad come along with me today, but Sharon thought he was too young to appreciate it; he thought I was going someplace to see kittycats.  Then it was back to the parking lot and to my rental car for an eagerly-desired dose of air conditioning.  I took a drive around the hill, which allowed me to see the recent sculpture of the first flight.  Then it was time to head back.

One of the flyers I had picked up at the visitor center was for a pet-item store called Outer Barks in the town of Duck.  I drove up there after leaving the memorial and found some things to give to my sister and my aunt and uncle.  I had two slices of pizza for lunch at the pizza place across the way, then got back on the road to Virginia.  As I neared Norfolk, I could see dark skies and the occasional flash of lightning in the distance.  I stopped at Border Station, located right on the North Carolina-Virginia border, for a bathroom break and a drink break.  And when I say it was right on the border, I mean that literally.  The state line ran right through the store.  There were signs at the Virginia registers saying that fireworks had to be paid for on the North Carolina side.

As I drove back into Virginia, I had XM’s Old Time Radio channel playing.  Right then, it was airing “Our Miss Brooks”.  I called Sharon to ask about any late afternoon or evening plans.  They were going to spend some time in the resort area, so I went back to the hotel.  I passed through some rain getting there, but at the hotel, it was sunny.  I called again; they were on the fishing pier, so I decided to try to meet them there.  It was quite a hike, but as I neared the pier, I caught up with them as they were leaving.  We visited a store where the girls bought hats for themselves and for friends.  We stopped by a place that did piercings, but they would not pierce Candice’s belly button, as she was too young for them; they wouldn’t handle anyone under 16.  We went to a Wendy’s on Pacific Avenue for supper.  I got a single hamburger with a baked potato as a side dish.  However, the potato had been overcooked, rendering the skin rock-hard and inedible.  While we were eating, we noticed a girl walking past the restaurant who could have been Candice’s twin – same green shirt, same blue jeans, same frizzy hair.  I joked that it was her evil twin.

When we finished our supper, we decided to play a round of miniature golf.  There were two courses to choose from; we chose the one with the jungle theme located across Pacific Avenue, rather than the pirate ship one across the other street.  Everybody played, even Brandon, although his putter was a bit big for him; his sisters got him a smaller one later.  Heather got at least one hole-in-one.  When we were finished, Randy got bottles of pop for his family (I would get some on the way back to the hotel), and we parted for the day.  I stopped in one of the Sunsations stores and got some pop – one bottle of Coke and one bottle of Faygo Redpop.  I was surprised to see a Detroit icon in Virginia Beach.  Then it was back to the hotel for the night.


Wednesday July 6

I got up after 6 o’clock and heard the announcement that London had won the 2012 Olympics.  I went out on the beach behind the hotel for a short walk and a chance to take some pictures and video.  It was a bright, sunny morning, and already it was getting warm.  I hadn’t had breakfast yet, nor had I visited the Catch31 restaurant in the hotel.  I took care of both things by going there for breakfast.  They had a breakfast buffet, but I didn’t feel like having it this morning.  I just had oatmeal and an English muffin for breakfast.  It was pretty good.

Then I drove down to the Sandbridge area to visit my sister and her family.  Our plans for today involved visiting Motor World, a go-kart track near the Virginia Aquarium (I passed it on the way to their place) and going to a murder mystery dinner in the evening.  First came Motor World.  We set off for the place, keeping each other more or less in sight the whole way there.  All of a sudden, I noticed what I thought was their vehicle turning around.  I called Sharon; it turns out that they forgot to bring their camera, so they were heading back to their cabin.  I could do whatever I wanted for lunch.  It took me a little while to determine what I wanted for lunch; I ended up visiting an IHOP, where it took me a little too long to get served.  The grilled chicken Caesar salad was still good, though.  While I was eating, Sharon called; they were arriving at the track.  I told them I’d be finishing up momentarily.  I got the bill, paid it, and set off towards the track.  It turns out that the track was set quite a distance from the main road, so I drove in the main gate and headed back toward the track.  The parking lot for the track wasn’t packed, unlike the parking lot for the water park.  I pulled in, got out, and looked for my sister’s rental SUV but didn’t see it.  I called, then looked up to see them coming down the road.  They’d been in the museum parking lot instead of the go-kart parking lot and had seen me arrive.

The track was actually several tracks of varying difficulty.  There was a small kiddie car loop, which Brandon drove while we were all cheering him on.  This was his first time behind the wheel of a car, so he was a bit ragged, but he did OK.  He liked it.  He drove on another track that was for young ones; this one was a figure-8 (no direct crossing).  Later, he would ride with his daddy in a couple of other tracks.  There was one track where everybody rode.  The large road racing track had the fastest cars, and Randy and I drove that track a couple of times.  It reminded me of a Grand Prix course where passing was possible only in a few areas.  Most of the cars were a bit uncomfortable for me in some way; generally, they were somewhat tight squeezes, and the pedals were not in the optimum positions.  Candice and I tried to ride together in one car, but it didn’t work out.  If I were thinner, or if she were still a small girl, it might have worked.  Brandon and Heather bounced in a harness-like contraption used by acrobats for training.  We saw a couple of people raised up to a great height, and then they swung down, clearing a chain-link fence by not enough distance for my liking.  We heard and saw fighter jets from the nearby Naval Air Stations flying training runs.

We’d all put on sunscreen today so we didn’t get burned, but the heat did drain us a bit.  I went back to the hotel to shower and rest up for the dinner that evening.  I even went up to the 21st floor to check out the outdoor pool and Sky Bar.  It was an interesting place to relax, although it was not cheap (a $5 Coke).  Then it was off to the Doubletree Hotel for the murder mystery, which was held in a couple of meeting rooms on the second floor.  There was a busload of tourists there – in fact, it was a fairly young crowd.  The mystery was set during Roman Empire times:  who killed Caesar?  Several clues were given in a flyer, which each diner would peruse in between courses of the meal.  The actors were also the servers, which was a little different.  I found the clues fairly easy to determine, yet I did not come up with the correct solution; I was partially correct. But I think Candice got the right answer, even though she didn’t win the door prize.

Back at the hotel, I was checking e-mail when I heard noises coming from outside.  I wondered if someone was on the balcony, but when I looked out, I saw another fireworks show.  This one lasted for only five minutes.


Thursday July 7

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore rear end.  That came from the go-karts, no doubt.  I went back to sleep and awoke after 7:30.  When checking the Detroit Free Press Website, I saw a news item about bombings in London.  I read the story and then turned on the TV.  These were serious bombings.  I was saddened to hear about this, for I had been to London on a couple of occasions many years before.  When I went down to the restaurant for breakfast, one of the TV’s had been tuned to CNN for the latest news (the other was still tuned to ESPN SportsCenter).  This morning, I did feel like the buffet, so I got that.

Our plans today involved a trip to the Virginia Aquarium and a dolphin-watching cruise.  We would meet at the aquarium around 10:30.  This gave me time to go out and look for a new belt, for the one I had was too big.  I had thought to go to Target, but I couldn’t find one, so I visited a Super K-Mart instead.  Turned out that the Target was across the street from the K-Mart.  No matter; I found the belt.  When I left, I was a bit thirsty, so I tried to get something from one of the vending machines.  Unfortunately, after taking a dollar bill, it wouldn’t take any coins, nor would it give me my dollar back.  I was quite upset.  But when I put my money in the machine next to the bad one, I got two bottles of pop!  I couldn’t complain about that, so I drank one and stuck one aside for later.

When I arrived at the Aquarium, I called Sharon to check on their progress.  They weren’t fully up yet, so they said they would forego the aquarium and meet me later for the dolphin cruise.  So I spent the next couple of hours enjoying the sights (no sounds) of the aquarium, which depicted the marine environment of the Chesapeake Bay – fish, sharks and rays.  I could have petted a ray, if I had wanted to.  I took several pictures, both with flash and without.  One picture of a young child looking at a sea turtle turned out very well.  I had a chili dog at the café, figuring it would be a good idea to have something in my stomach on the dolphin cruise.

The dolphin cruises did not leave from the aquarium, but from Rudee Point a half-mile north of there.  I got there early and thought I would be nice and pick up and pay for the tickets that Sharon had reserved.  By the reckoning of the cruise operator, Brandon was the only child, so I got 5 adult and one child tickets.  When Sharon and family arrived, though, she told me that she’d already paid for the tickets.  So we went to the ticket office and arranged to get mine refunded.  But hold on; it turns out that they’d only reserved 4 adults and one child (although Sharon was sure she told them 5 adults).  It made more sense to refund her tickets rather than mine, for I would not have been able to board otherwise.  Once that was straightened out, we got on board.

The cruise didn’t go very far off shore; land was always in sight.  And most of the time, so were dolphins.  I took pictures and video, but it wasn’t easy to capture good images of the dolphins.  Sometimes, the camera didn’t react as quickly as I would have liked it to, resulting in some failed photos.  I wandered all over the lower level of the boat, heading from port to starboard and bow to stern.  Sharon and the kids stayed at the stern most of the time.  Heather was doubled over for much of the trip trying to resist seasickness (I think she succeeded), but she did get to see some dolphins.  We were on the water for about 90 minutes.  Afterwards, we went for lunch (or “lupper”, in my case) to a barbecue restaurant we’d seen on the way to the murder mystery dinner last night (19th and Mediterranean).  I had a beef sandwich, fries and baked beans.  It was OK, but Joe’s Barbeque in Alvin was better.  Randy, who’d had ribs, agreed with me.  I suspect Sharon agreed, too, although she didn’t say anything.  Then it was back to their house.

After a suitable settling-down period, we went down to the beach again.  This time, I had my swimsuit, so I could join in more than on Monday.  I put sunscreen all over, even though it was cloudy today.  We walked over to the beach but didn’t bother with the umbrellas because it was cloudy.  The waves were rougher and higher than on Monday.  Randy did some more boogie-boarding, while I waded into the surf this time.  Some of those waves packed quite a wallop; I was knocked over a few times and washed back to the shore, getting a mouthful or two of salt water.

Back at the house, I decided to call aunt Marie and uncle Bill, then ended up passing the phone around to everyone to let them talk.  Everyone but Randy talked to them, I think.  Then it was getting late, so I thought I’d better head back to the hotel.  Once there, I noticed I was hungry.  I ended up ordering another Angus burger from room service.


Friday July 8

It was time for me to pack up today and leave Virginia Beach.  I took a shower and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (another go at the breakfast buffet), then finished packing.  I had enjoyed my stay here and was sorry to go, but I was looking forward to heading back to DC to meet up with friend and classmate David Horrigan.  I loaded up the car with my luggage (I only had two pieces of luggage, so I don’t know if that would count as “loading up” a car), checked out, then left the garage, taking care to drop my key card in the bin at the parking garage exit (I needed that key to exit the garage).

I then headed towards Sandridge to see Sharon and family one last time this trip.  They were up but were taking their time getting ready.  They would leave Virginia Beach on Saturday and would go back to Manassas.

It was around 11:15 when I left.  I didn’t want to get caught in DC traffic at rush hour.  There were some slowdowns as I neared the tunnel between Norfolk and Newport News, so I thought it best to visit the Norfolk Visitor’s Center for a trip to the restroom.  Then it was back to the traffic, which wasn’t that bad, really, and onto Richmond and I-95.  As always, XM kept me company – Top Tracks, Deep Tracks, the Decades channels, etc.  I did encounter northbound congestion at Dale City, which is when I first called David to let him know where I was.  He would be heading out, he said, but would have his phone with him.  I called again once I got inside the Beltway.  He warned me to put on Damy speakerphone, as DC had a no-hands ordinance.  So I was on the speakerphone as I crossed the Potomac into the District.

David attempted to guide me to where he, girlfriend Claudia, and visiting friend Bob were located.  His directions were close, but a couple of wrongly-directed turns got me off track.  But we got back on track and hooked up at Logan Circle.  They got into my car, and we set off for our dinner destination, the Lauriol Plaza restaurant on 18th Street NW.  It was a Mexican restaurant that had three levels, the third being on the roof.  The sun was bright, but the food was good

David and Claudia had just moved into their co-op unit the week before.  It was a 4th-floor unit in the DeSoto, at 13th Street and Massachusettes Avenue NW.  It was on the corner, so it had a good view up both streets.  It had one bedroom, one bath, a small kitchen, a dining room and living room.  There was a sound system that was rigged to send music throughout the house.  And there was another guest with us: Henri the dog, whom was being dog-sat by David and Claudia.  He used to live in this unit, until the previous owner moved upstairs and sold it.

I checked my e-mail using my cellphone connection.  There were a number of unsecured wireless networks in the area, but I didn’t feel like poaching their connections.  I showed everyone the pictures I had taken on the trip so far, including the dolphin-watching pictures.  Those came out better than expected, although they would have to be cropped to emphasize the dolphins.  I also showed them my recent Texas trip and San Francisco trip pictures.

We hadn’t had dessert at the Mexican restaurant, but now it was time for some.  We would be having bananas Foster, but we would have to go and get the ingredients for it.  So the three of us men walked over to the nearby Whole Foods Market (it used to be a Fresh Fields) for most of the stuff, along with some things for us to drink while we were there.  Earlier, we stopped at a liquor store for some liquor that was needed/wanted in the preparation.  Now David would be preparing two versions of the Foster topping, one with the liquor and one without, for he knew I didn’t drink and couldn’t/shouldn’t consume any food with alcohol for religious reasons.  The “dry” version was very good, and everyone else thought the “wet” version was very good, too.


Saturday July 9

I slept on one of those inflatable Aero beds in the living room.  It was comfortable enough, more so than a couch would have been.  David and I were up fairly early; we ended up taking Henri on a walk through the nearby neighborhood.

Last night, Dr. Bob and I had agreed that we would treat David and Claudia to breakfast in appreciation for their allowing us to stay with them.  Well, by the time everyone was up, it was 11 o’clock, so breakfast was no longer an option.  But lunch was, and we all piled into my car and drove over to the Capitol Hill area, where we lunched at the Capitol Lounge.  And by “all,” I’m including Henri.  We ate on the sidewalk, and Henri was on his best behavior.  The waitress had brought him a bowl of cool water.  On our way back to my car (we’d parked about two blocks south), we passed by David and Claudia’s old house, a half-brownstone and half-brick building.  It had gotten that way after an explosion many years ago had destroyed the upper half.

It was 2:15 or thereabouts when I left.  My first stop was the BP station a block or so to the north.  Here, I would fill up the rental car’s gas tank, for I had promised to do so when I rented the car.  Gas was $2.45 a gallon; I hadn’t seen it so high outside of California.  After filling up, I headed down Massachusetts Avenue towards Union Station.  I had to avoid an accident between a taxicab and another car, but I didn’t have much difficulty arriving at Union Station and dropping off the vehicle.  After checking in at the garage, I had to return to the rental counter to complete the check-in process.  That done, I set off for the restroom and for the B. Dalton store, where I looked for some reading material for the trip back.  The only thing I found was an Economist magazine, but that would be enough.  Then it was time to check in for the train.  Seats were at a premium in the waiting area, so I had to stand.

Most travelers were heading to Chicago, so those who were going to intermediate points boarded one car near the front of the train.  I ended up sitting at the back of that car.  We got underway with little if any delay, and we were on our way west.  The scenery was the same as before, as you would expect.  I decided to eat at the second seating for dinner and had a steak.  It was OK, but I had had better.  My dining companions were a couple from LA who had just visited their daughter, who was about to be posted to the American Embassy in Mexico City as a military attaché.  We continued westward.  I saw more windmills from one or two wind farms, trying to turn wind power into electricity.  Then it got dark, and it was time for sleep.  Once again, I tried to make myself comfortable in my seat.  I did sleep some, though I was awake when we pulled out of Pittsburgh.  A lot of people got on board there.


Sunday July 10

Once again, my sleep was off-and-on.  Somewhere in eastern Ohio, in either Alliance or Cleveland, I had picked up a seatmate.  When I woke up one time, the conductor was coming by and said Toledo was coming up.  That was the end of sleep for me, as I got up and retrieved my carryon bag, then went downstairs to await our arrival and the pickup of my rolling bag.  The train arrived right on time or only a few minutes late; I went inside and visited the restroom, then sat down to await the bus to Dearborn.  CNN was still on the monitors in the station; this time, the news was about hurricane Dennis, which was bearing down on the Florida and Alabama coasts.

At one point, I checked my e-mail.  When I pulled out my phone, I found I had a message.  It was from my uncle Bill, who had called at 4:40 in the morning, complaining that my cell phone had called their house at that time.  And it had!  The phone was in my pocket, and normally I would lock the keys so that inadvertent key presses could not happen.  Either I had forgotten to do that, or the keys were accidentally unlocked in my pocket.  Oops!  I would have to call when I got home (at a more reasonable hour) and apologize.

Around 6 o’clock, the station agent let us know that the train coming from New York was over 3 hours late.  The bus for which we were waiting was to take those passengers to Michigan too, so it would have to wait for them.  However, we wouldn’t have to wait for the bus, as vans had been contracted to take us back to Michigan.  I rode in an Explorer with one other guy plus our driver, and we had a smooth ride back to the Dearborn station.  My car was still there when I arrived (always a welcome sight), and I put my stuff in the trunk, hooked up the XM radio, and headed for home.  Gas prices had taken a substantial jump in the last week; the prices were well over $2.30 a gallon.  By 7:45, I was home and began to unpack.


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©2005 R. W. Reini.    All rights reserved.

Written by Roger Reini
RevisedApril 20, 2008